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Ambassador networks and place branding

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Purpose ‐ The use of brand ambassadors is a quite recent phenomenon, even in the business world. This paper aims to explore the employment of ambassador networks as a place marketing and place development tool. This is done by identifying various kinds of networks, understanding how networks are governed, and pinning down the motivations and expectations of network members. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The study used interviews and a survey to collect empirical material. The research process employed an approach with many inductive elements, deemed appropriate given that research into the topic is scant. Findings ‐ The study identified four main dimensions of networks and, on this basis, we outline a typology with four main categories of networks. One major finding is that ambassador networks are seen not only as a communication channel, but also as a development resource. That means they are seen as enhancing the general competitiveness of the place involved. The networks are also seen as a resource for mobilising local citizen pride. Another finding was that ambassadors value getting access to first-hand information about the place much more than the opportunity of taking part in meetings and events and forming new relationships. Research limitations/implications ‐ The findings are in line with the perspective of the place brand as a "relational brand network", extending place branding beyond a matter of just one-way communication. It is somewhat surprising that ambassadors value getting access to information more than interaction, given that other research puts such a high value on interaction and dialogue as value-creating factors. Practical implications ‐ Based on the observations in the study, it is argued that ambassador networks have the potential to constitute an integral component of place brand management. Originality/value ‐ Research on the application of ambassador networks in place marketing seems to be scant, not to say non-existent. The present study relates to the implementation of place branding, and can hopefully contribute to a more efficient practice as well as a better theoretical understanding.

Keywords: Brand image; Brand management; Brands; Relationship marketing; Social networks; Sweden

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17538330910942799

Publication date: March 13, 2009

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